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E.P. Christy

Edwin Pearce Christy (November 28, 1815 – May 21, 1862) was an American composer, singer, actor and stage producer. He is more commonly known as E. P. Christy, and was the founder of the blackface minstrel group Christy's Minstrels.

Background

Christy was born in Philadelphia, PA. He began his career as a minstrel in Buffalo, New York, and toured upstate New York from 1843 to 1845. The group took the name of its founder and became known as the Christy's Minstrels. In April 1846 Christy and his band of six performers began performing in New York City at Palmo's Opera House. The group performed at Mechanics Hall from February 15, 1847 to July 15, 1854. After performing at a benefit performance for Stephen Foster in Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 25, 1847, the group specialized in performances of Foster's works. Foster sold his song, Old Folks at Home, to Christy for his exclusive use. (Christy is played by Al Jolson in the Foster bio-pic Swannee River, 1939.)

Christy retired as a performer in 1855 but continued as a manager. He operated a chain of theaters called Christy's Opera Houses in several cities. The name of the original group, Christy's Minstrels, was licensed for use by a new organization and became synonymous with the performance tradition of blackface minstrelsy. Fearful of financial reverses due to the upheaval of the American Civil War, Christy committed suicide by throwing himself from a window in his New York City house on May 21, 1862. He is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY.[1]

References

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